Simple ways to cut food waste

Illustration of Minnesota on a dinner plateOf all the stuff we throw away in Minnesota almost 18 percent is food.

Wasted food represents wasted demand for water, land, and fuel. A more concrete way of thinking about this, however, is money: A family of four can save more than $30 a week by making changes in how they shop, prepare, and store food.

What would you do with $30 a week?

Whatever your answer, here is the how-to, with extra tips for holiday parties and meal planning. Most importantly, make a commitment--right now--to try one of these techniques in the kitchen this year. Which one will it be?

Before the meal

  • Make a list with meals in mind. Create a shopping list based on specific meals. Choose recipes based on what you already have at home. Try out the Meals in Mind shopping list template from the Food: Too Good to Waste toolkit.
     
  • Get help with portion planning. The fear of not providing enough to eat often causes hosts to cook too much. Find meal planning tips from Eureka Recycling's Make Dirt Not Waste.
     
  • Keep fruits and vegetables fresh. Prepare ingredients for the week as soon as you get back from the store. Use these tips from Eureka Recycling to extend the life of your produce.

During the meal

  • Use small plates and utensils. Simple tricks of using smaller serving utensils or plates can encourage smaller portions, reducing the amount left on plates. It is much easier and more hygienic to use leftovers from serving platters than from individuals’ plates.
     
  • Allow guests to serve themselves. Having your guests choose what and how much they would like to eat can help to reduce the amount of unwanted food left on their plate.

After the meal

  • Food in the fridgeRefrigerate leftovers promptly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that hot foods be refrigerated within two hours after cooking. Store leftovers in smaller, individually sized containers, making them more convenient to grab for a quick meal.
     
  • Designate foods to eat first. Use this Eat First sign so that everyone knows and remembers.
     
  • Create new meals. Check out Love Food Hate Waste’s creative recipes for using your food scraps to create new meals. Boil vegetable scraps and turkey carcasses for stock and soups, and use bread crusts and ends to make tasty homemade croutons.
     
  • Compost food scraps. If you have access to a yard, you can start composting in your backyard (even in the winter!). Apartment and condo residents can consider composting indoors using red worms. Better yet, some Minnesota communities offer curbside pick up or drop sites for food waste. Contact your city, county or garbage hauler to see if they offer organics recycling.
     
  • Donate extras. Food banks and shelters welcome donations of canned and dried foods, especially during the holiday season and colder months. For a list of Twin Cities programs, visit Rethink Recycling's page on food recovery.